4 Healthy Action Steps To Emotional Regulation
However painful and untrue they may be, the stories we create in our minds and believe to be true have a significant impact on our future. This mental process of storytelling and belief formation is often the root cause of our suffering and struggles. Yet, by understanding the necessary steps toward emotional regulation, we can effectively manage and navigate negative emotions, fostering greater well-being and resilience.
First, let's understand what is emotional regulation
In our daily lives, we encounter numerous stimuli that evoke various emotions, often demanding our attention and response. Amidst this constant influx, our minds tend to gravitate towards negative contemplation or overlook emotions without mindful awareness.
Emotional regulation serves as a valuable tool, enabling us to filter and prioritize essential information, thereby gaining control over our emotional state. It empowers us to address these stimuli in a manner that minimizes stress and fear, ensuring a balanced and adaptive response.
Basic emotions, sparked by specific negative or positive responses to internal thoughts or external stimuli, are instinctual and common to all species. However, the feelings and reactions they prompt are subjective, influenced by personal experiences, beliefs, and memories–subjective to each individual.
Emotions play a huge role in how we perceive the world, starting with the layers of reality that battle it out in our minds. These emotions then get stored in our bodies, if we get trapped by our thoughts for consistent periods. And the longer this emotional period lasts, the longer it will take to rise above this state.
As hard as it's not to dwell on difficult past experiences such as traumatic or significant emotional events, much of the healing process relies on verbally and mentally stepping through the past to understand and recover from such pain. It's when we become trapped in a perpetual negative mindset by verbally repeating those afflictions that can lead to a disconnect from the present. This excess in rumination or overthinking drains our mental energy, preventing us from taking action to heal.
As humans, our brain has a tendency to remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones.
Keep in mind that no one emotion is inherently positive or negative, even though we use these words to label our emotions and experiences. Negative information draws our attention in more than positive information, dominating our thinking and behavior. This psychological phenomenon is called negativity bias. Meaning, we give our negative emotions, thoughts and speak more power when we doubt ourselves and are attached to a negative belief or story. By saying and believing unpleasant thoughts, we increase the probability of those thoughts and words occurring by subconsciously planting them in our minds. So, whether something has already negatively happened to us or we verbalize that it may, our brain doesn't know the difference and releases electrochemical signals that carry that emotional message throughout the body so we can evaluate this internal experience. This somatic (body) response is created by a subjective emotional experience that is generated subconsciously. Emotions get stored as a memory in the brain that will signal to the body either a pleasant or unpleasant feeling the next time you recall the experience in the future. If the experience is unpleasant, overtime repressed negative emotions and energy can lead to prolonged stress linked to a wide range of detrimental health effects.
Emotional Refractory Period
So, if you are the type of person who spends a great deal of time thinking about the fear of doing something, know that a fearful thought transcends into your physical body, triggering the internal state that may paralyze you from taking aligned action to achieve success.
Sure we find ourselves in a "bad" mood from time to time. Maybe someone cut you off while you were driving, or you got in an argument with your partner. Psychologist calls this the emotional refractory period. This state is the amount of time it takes for us to process the emotion, recover and move on from an experience – generally within minutes or hours. During this period, it becomes difficult for individuals to access unbiased information that doesn't reinforce the emotions they are feeling.
Most moods are fleeting. However, an unhealthy emotional refractory period that lingers for months or years will eventually become part of your personality. This overwhelming effect can keep someone in a constant state of struggle and pain. Feelings that are suppressed or dwelled upon cause a strong stress response in the body and have a tendency to get anchored as part of someone's personality traits.
Those who don't communicate effectively to vocalize emotions tend to get caught in a loop that negatively impacts almost every aspect of life. Like that friend or relative we all know who we say is an "anger" or "bitter" person. This individual's prolonged mood is now part of their personality, created from past emotions that have lingered, that haven't been resolved.
Negative Thoughts and Emotions Aren't Always So Bad
Thinking negative thoughts aren’t always detrimental. They tell you when things need to change about yourself or your environment. Negative thoughts, emotional conflicts, and difficulties can be temporary but are a natural part of the human experience. They alert us in dangerous situations for our very evolutionary survival. Without negative emotions, we wouldn't be able to compare the counterpart experience of positive emotions. But most importantly, negative thoughts and emotions can be a portal to change and greater clarity for creating a growth-mindset.
We can learn to regulate our negative emotions with positive habit-building techniques that anyone can learn to implement. By questioning the root of our feelings, pushing aside the ego, and delving into our thoughts and beliefs, we gather a deeper awareness of our stored emotions and experience growth by moving past our triggers, pain, fear, and suffering.
Self-regulation is the practice of creating a pause between our feelings and reactions, and we can only achieve this when we learn to be mindful and fully present. It prompts us to take a moment, deliberately slowing down our response, and engaging in objective evaluation before taking action.
The harsh truth is: you will only get to where you desire to be if you are aware of what is going on inside and around you, blocking you from receiving all you desire.
I say this again and again to my life coaching client, that it is self-awareness that is a skill one must learn if change is desired.
The less often we live in auto-pilot mode, the more we can change our brain through neuroplasticity: the brain's ability to restructure or rewire itself in response to life experiences by forming new neural connections over time.
Understanding our Thought and Feelings
Feeling a certain way causes us to think and act a certain way. We are either in alignment with our thoughts, feelings and actions or we are not – each has an affect on the other.
Our growth begins by inserting conscious thought into how we want to feel. After which, we can begin to understand our thoughts and feelings becoming aware of how they guide us towards fulfilling our needs. This awareness empowers us to take action aligned with our interpretations of past experiences.
Emotions are the source of our inner truths – always signaling to the body. They are a great source of information if we are aware and tuned into what our bodies are telling us–acting as a profound source of insights. Our bodies are always subtly trying to signal what they need long before our logical brain has clued in, whether positive or negative.
Tip: By creating space between your triggered emotion and your reaction, you allow the time needed to observe what you are feeling ahead of a reaction.
You get to decide who you are and what you believe about yourself, not anyone else. And so, when we take an intentional breath without reacting right away, we allow this moment to help us form a healthy and less blame-oriented response.
Further, by inplementing goal-setting strategies, we change the; intensity, duration, and quality of our emotional responses. This is where all the magic happens. (Related: Getting Healthy Starts in Your Head)
Recap: 4 Healthy Actions Steps to Emotional Regulation
1. Surrender your feelings in the moment.
Take a breath where you would have otherwise reacted. Become the observer of your emotions rather than a victim of them. Ask yourself what your body is feelings and trying to tell you. Let your emotions serve you as a guild.
2. Acknowledge that you are not your emotions.
They are just a part of you. For example: if you are feeling sad, it doesn't mean you are depressed. Emotions are simply a state of mind. They come and go unless you decide to hold onto them.
3. Take responsibility for your feelings.
Instead of numbing them, running away, judging them, or blaming someone else, try not to push your feelings down or deflect them so they do not continually resurface.
4. Acceptance with compassion
Without judgment for what you experience. This will give you power instead of focusing on the pain that ultimately leads to shame (shame shields solutions). This self-compassion step is your antidote for your pain. We cannot stop our thoughts, but we can change our unhealthy habit loop by finding healthier ways of regulating our emotions. And finding healthy action steps toward emotional regulation can greatly impact our mindset and reduce stress.
So, commit to learning about your emotions and build coping skills that can lead to greater emotional resilience and overall wellness. By developing effective strategies for emotional regulation, we can transform our relationship with our thoughts and emotions, empowering ourselves to navigate life's challenges with greater ease.
Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for professional mental health advice. The information provided on www.vanessamarielifecoach.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between patient/site visitor and his/her physician, nor is intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.